Saturday’s post on Mickey Mantle solicited a heartfelt and wonderful response from Tom. In it he said “I guess I shouldn’t say this, but I absolutely loved Mantle…” and it is that comment that inspires me this morning.
Two of the all time greats at Fenway Park in 1958.
There is a common misconception, held by many, that to be a Red Sox fan means one must hate the Yankees. So in the interest of candor and in the spirit of full disclosure I want to declare I DO NOT HATE THE YANKEES! In fact I have not “hated” the Yankees since the early 1960s.
Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle at Fenway Park, 1961.
I have been following the Red Sox since 1959 when I was six years old and from then until the Red Sox won the pennant in 1967, their best season was ’59’ when they went 75-79 and finished in fifth place out of eight teams!
The 1959 Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees, on the other hand, won the American League pennant in 1960, ’61’, ’62’, ’63’ and 1964 winning the World Series in ’61’ and ’62’. Adding insult to injury, during those years the Red Sox went 63-89 in head to head games with the Yankees. I was delighted when Bill Mazeroski’s homer beat the Yanks in the ’60’ World Series and ecstatic when the New Yorkers fell victim to Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson in the Series’ of 1963 and ’64’. Thus, it is safe to say that, my “hatred” of the Yankees was born of the jealousy and frustrations of a child’s heart.
I did not experience the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry until the 1970s for it was not until the later half of that decade that both teams were once again good enough to vie for the American League pennant. Things were different then, for major league baseball had gone to division play and a playoff system. So now they battled for the title of AL East Champs.
The Red Sox were in the hunt in 1972, and 1974 before winning the East and the pennant in 1975. In 1976, the Yankees made their first World Series appearance in 12 years. They followed that up in 1977 with their first World Championship since 1962. Then came 1978!
Bucky Dent crosses home greeted by Chris Chambliss and Roy Clark after his home run gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
Playing the first one game playoff in the American League since 1948, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 5-4 at Fenway Park. There were seven Hall of Famers in Fenway Park that day, “Catfish” Hunter, “Goose” Gossage and Reggie Jackson in pinstripes and Carl Yastrzemski, Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice wearing red sox.
I was present at that game and when it was over I literally circled the Park for two hours absorbing the “injustice” of it all, however when the Yankees made it to the World Series a couple of weeks later, I was rooting for them! They beat the Dodgers for their first back to back World Series Championship since the early 1950s.
Red Sox/Yankee battle in May of 1976.
The Sox/Yankees have produced some fantastic on field brawls! There were members on those teams in the seventies that had a genuine disdain for each other and it was carried between the lines.
The rivalry hit its zenith this past decade when the Red Sox miracle of “04” unfolded at the expense of, none other than, the Yankees. And today the battle continues.
Sox/Yankees battle at Fenway, 2004.
I don’t hate the Yankees, there I said it again! Frankly I think it’s because I have evolved from just a Red Sox fan to a baseball fan who loves the Red Sox. How could any true baseball fans, not love the way the likes of Mantle, Maris, Berra, Guidry, Munson, Jackson, Pinella, Jeter, Posada, Rivera et al play or played the game of baseball?
Now I will confess, I hold a particular disdain for Yankee fans, not all of them mind you, just those who feel entitled. Those who feel the Yankees will win simply because they’re the Yankees and they somehow deserve it. That illustrates a complete disrespect for the game and a lack of appreciation of just how incredibly difficult it is to perform, day in, day out, year in, year out, at the level of excellence that has marked the histories of both these franchises. And I am sad to say, that many members of Red Sox Nation, have developed a similar posture.
Jim Ed Rice.
In July of 2009, I was in Cooperstown with my son for the induction of Jim Rice. I wore a t-shirt with this photo…..
under the photo were the words, “61 Homers, No Steroids” and of course I was adorned with my Red Sox cap. I was purchasing some items from a street vendor who looked at me and said in his finest New York accent, “Hey your from Borston, whaddaya doin with that shirt on?…..A Borston fan wearin a Maris shirt.” I retorted, “I can’t like Maris because I’m from Boston?”
I leave you with the words I left with him. “There are idiot baseball fans everywhere, you have your share and we have our share”, and so it is. I’m not sure you can love Dustin Pedroia and not love Derek Jeter. I’m not sure you can love Jorge Posada and not love Jason Varitek. So Tom, never feel you ever, ever have to apologize because you loved the likes of Mickey Mantle, any and all true baseball fans, loved the Mick too.
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, March 12, 2012.